Parliament Confirms Changes for Central Bank of Mongolia

The Parliament of Mongolia has approved amendments to the law governing the Central bank of Mongolia. The changes will effect the legal status of the bank and its independence. The Bank’s decision making process has been adjusted based on the standards, practices and principles implemented by central banks in other countries so the operations of the Central bank of Mongolia will comport with the international standard. The amendments will enter into force from the April 1, 2018.

One big change coming is that the bank’s involvement and influence with matters such as the state budget will be circumscribed, making the bank more independent from the Government. At the same time, there will be a mechanism in place to ensure clear lines of communication between the government and the bank.

This amendment will contribute to the increase of independence of the Central Bank, proper development of monetary policy, improvement of implementation of legal circumstance, promotion of further price stability at the macroeconomic level and will help to provide greater financial stability, and to maintain and promote long term economic stability for the slowly growing Mongolian economy

Most of world’s Central banks are responsible for balancing inflation and price level, and such responsibilities are clearly provided for in relevant laws. However, the Mongolian Central bank’s mission had been to balance and stabilizing the National currency. The new amendments help to more clearly define the Central Bank’s goal. The amendment defines the Central bank’s objective as the “Price Stability”, this objective and goals is meeting and complying with international level and standard.

This is undoubtedly a positive development for the Mongolian economy. We will keep you updated and will have a more detailed discussion regarding the exact nature of the new amendments in an upcoming blog.

Investing in a Mongolia Company: Common vs Preferred Shares

In general, purpose of investment is for one to gain profits and raise capital by acquiring certain assets, such as real estate, shares, bonds and so on, which are projected to rise in value. However, the significance of investment, particularly foreign investment is that it lets the investor not only raise its own capital, but it also becomes a tool for economic growth in Mongolia or any country. In this article we will take a look at a shareholder’s practical options as regards ownership of shares in a Mongolia company.

As provided in the Law of Mongolia on Securities Markets, a share evidences the investment of a shareholder in a company, gives its holder the right to vote at shareholders meetings, to receive dividends and to receive a proportionate share of proceeds from the sale of the company’s assets remaining following its liquidation. Shares are classified into common or preferred shares. There are several differences between the two, with each having it’s own pros and cons.

Most companies issue common shares, and similarly most investors acquire common shares. Common shares may benefit shareholders through appreciation and through dividends. Common shares also come with voting rights, giving shareholders more control over the business. In addition, common shares come with pre-emptive rights, ensuring that existing shareholders have a right to buy new shares and maintain their original percentage of ownership when the company issues new shares. A Common shareholder is entitled to following:

  1. Receive dividends: depending on company’s profitability and board of directors’ decision whether to distribute the profit, shareholder is entitled to receive dividends. Dividends may be paid in cash, as well as in form of assets and/or securities.
  2. Be involved in the management of the company by voting: shareholder is entitled to participate in shareholders meetings and vote regarding all issues proposed at such meetings. One common share comes with one voting right.
  3. Shareholder is entitled to receive and obtain all and any information regarding the company’s activities at any time.
  4. Receive a share of proceeds from the sale of the company`s remaining assets following liquidation of the company: following liquidation of the company and payment of all debts to creditors, shareholder is entitled to receive a share of proceeds (if any) from the sale of the company’s remaining assets.

In contrast, preferred shares in Mongolia, as in other countries, take priority over common shares, when dividends are distributed, as well as when the company is liquidated and pays its lenders, preferred shareholders receive payment before common shareholders. However, preferred shares typically do not offer voting rights in the company and have set payment criteria, a dividend that is paid out regularly. Usually preferred shares are issued when privatizing a state property or if a private company wants to attract additional funding (investment) without changing company’s control package. Preferred shareholder is entitled to following:

  1. Receive dividends before common shareholders: dividends are paid out to preferred shareholders before common share dividends are issued.
  2. Receive dividends regularly: while for common shareholder dividends are paid out only if company is profitable and board of directors decides to distribute profit, for preferred shareholder dividends are paid out regularly regardless of circumstances. Even if the company was not profitable and could not pay dividends, the payment is accumulated, and two-year dividend should be paid the following year.
  3. Receive a share of proceeds from the sale of the company`s remaining assets following liquidation of the company first: if the company is liquidating, shareholder is entitled to be paid from company assets first (before common shareholders).
  4. If provided in company charter, preferred shares may be converted into common shares.

Preferred shares are an optimal alternative for risk-averse equity investors. Preferred shares are typically less volatile than common shares and offer investors a steadier flow of dividends. Also, preferred shares are usually callable; the issuer of shares can redeem them at any time, providing investors with more options than common shares.

So, if you are thinking about buying shares in a Mongolian company, be sure to look into it more closely. There might be more options than just buying common shares.

Mongolia to Amend Law on Patents

Law on Patent was adopted initially in 1993 to facilitate the legalization of the ownership rights of the industrial design, the patent, the utility models and the certificate holders; to regulate relations arising out of their use; and to facilitate them into economic circulation. The Law on Patent was amended in 1996, 1999 and revised in 2006 in connection with social and economic reform.

With the development of technological developments, innovation of Industrial designs, utility model and patent and their scope of applications are growing rapidly.

Thus, innovators and entrepreneurs are keen to produce value-added products, as well as to focus on foreign markets and business development.

In Mongolia, the number of patent applications is steadily increasing, with 70% of 1555 applications filed for patent the last 6 years (2010-2016), 94% of 1817 applications for industrial designs, and 80% of 1065 applications for utility models have been issued.

Patents grant with exclusive rights in the territory. In Mongolia, 16 patents were filed under Patent Cooperation Agreement in 2008-2016

However, in practice, the enforcement of laws is inadequate due to failure of regulations that need to be regulated by law, conflicting regulations, as well as renewing needs to meet with international treaties in which Mongolia ratified.

In other words, there is only one standard regulated by laws regardless the difference between the 3 objects of the invention, the industrial design and the utility model, regulation in connection with the filing and examination process is not appropriate in practice, as well as the use of a compulsory license of the patent that violates the rights of the owners. In addition, there is no financial support, tax and fee discount policy that supports creators, and the process of international application relating to the patent regulated by laws do not meet the standards and requirements of international agreements ratified by Mongolia.

Guidelines for improvement Mongolian legislations until 2020 states that the Patent Law is aimed at improving the protection of patents based on global trends and agreements with World Intellectual Property Organization based on the views of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

In addition, the Government’s Action Plan for the 2016-2020 was obliged to the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs in order to draft a law on amendments to the Patent Law to submit to the State Great Hural.

As a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization, Mongolia obliges to comply with the fundamental principles set forth in international treaties and conventions which ratified.

Law on Patent expects to be amended based on abovementioned requirements.

Mongolia Minerals Exploration License: Review and Revocation

In our previous post, we introduced Mongolia’s new tender process for obtaining a license for minerals exploration activities. Here, we will briefly discuss the procedures and requirements on review of an application for the exploration license. 

Application Review

After receiving applications for a license to explore for minerals in a particular plot, the State Administrative Agency of Mongolia will evaluate each technical proposal and fee proposal submitted by the interested parties on a scale, and will notify the candidate who obtained the highest scoring evaluation that it is eligible to receive the exploration license. If two or more applicants obtained equal or similar evaluation scores, the applicant which first submitted the application is first eligible to be issued the exploration license. If an applicant submitted incomplete documents or a review of the technical aspects of the documentation reveals that the application does not meet the requirements to be eligible for the exploration license, the State Administrative Agency will notify the applicants in writing regarding their exclusion from the remainder of the tender process, and will provide and explanation along with returning the application documentation to the applicant.

The selected candidates are required to pay an initial annual exploration license fee within 10 days after receiving notice of eligibility. If the candidate fails to pay this fee, it will be deemed to be a ground to revoke the license. After payment of the initial fee, the State Administrative Agency will issue an Exploration License valid for a three (3) year period. When the Exploration License is issued, the Ministry of Environment, the local province, district, city’s governor, and local Inspection Agency with jurisdiction over the target plot will each be notified directly, and the aware of the exploration license will be published in public media.

Revocation of a License

There are several potential issues which may result in revocation of an issued minerals exploration license. Breach of rules and standard procedures for exploration will result in revocation, and the holder will be required to transfer the license back to the State Administrative Agency. Failure to pay required corporate income taxes, to duly report to the tax office and to report relevant information to the tax office will also result in revocation of the license. The Exploration License will be revoked in the event that the license holder does not report such status to the Mongolia Legal Entity Registration Office (LERO), along with relevant details about its corporate structure and holdings, or where changes to the license holders corporate governance and information is not reported within 10 days to the Tax Office.

Mongolia Implements New Tender Process to Obtain Mining Licenses

Companies in or considering getting into the Mongolian mining industry need to be aware of new changes in procedures for obtaining a license for minerals exploration. The new changes are geared toward making it easier to apply for and register a minerals exploration license, which will hopefully facilitate interest in continued minerals exploration in the Mongolian steppe.

The amendment of the Law on Minerals regulating the issuing of new mining licenses, was adopted by the Mongolian Parliament on 10 November 2017. Under the law, new mining and exploration licenses will be granted through a new tender process starting this year. Prior to the amendment, mining licenses were obtained through applications and tender bids.

Area Selection

The minerals exploration process will start with a determination by the State Administrative Agency as to the target plot of land to be explored. After identifying a candidate area for exploration, the State Administrative Agency will notify the provincial governor and local municipality, and provide a detailed outline and map of the proposed exploration.

The governor and local municipality will have 45 days to provide a response to the State Administrative Agency giving local opinion as to the planned exploration in the target area. A meeting of citizen representatives should be held to determine local attitudes. If there is no official reply within the 45-day period the proposed exploration is considered accepted by the locality.

After a target area has been approved for minerals exploration, the State Administrative Agency will announce a selection process inviting potential exploration companies to submit application documents to be considered to management the exploration. The invitation period will last 30 days and include publication through public media and newspapers. In the event that an area targeted for exploration receives no applicants to conduct the exploration, the State Administrative Agency will leave the area open and conduct further announcements going forward.   

Selection Process

With the new Changes, licenses for minerals exploration will be issued through a special selection and bidding process. Interested companies are required to submit a request to be considered to participate in the selection process to the State Administrative Agency. The application must include documentation regarding the applicant’s technical proposal or project outline documentation. The required documentation will include information regarding personnel requirements, techniques and technology, and the nature of the planned exploration work.  The State Administrative Agency will register the request and give a receipt to the applicant while the request is considered.

Our next post will look at procedures for review of submitted applications and revocation of issued licenses.

What Are The Audit Requirements for a Foreign Invested Company in Mongolia?

The National Audit Office of Mongolia has opened up public discussions on the Audit Law which was last amended in 2015 and effective from January 1, 2016. The working group of Audit law has been receiving suggestions from the public online and organizing a regular series of public discussions on changes to the current Audit Law.

On December 25 2017, a public discussion was held for independent legal auditors. There are now over 50 international and local audit companies admitted conducting the audit services in Mongolia.

Mongolia has some unique regulations regarding required corporate audits. According to the law, a particular audit firm is not allowed to provide auditing services to a certain client company for more than 5 consecutive years. Furthermore, an audit firm which had provided 5 consecutive years audit service to a certain client company may not provide auditing services to that company for at least 3 consecutive years. These requirements are designed to prevent arrangements between clients and audit firms to carefully disguise potentially non-compliant financial practices at the client company.

Under the current Audit Law, the following business entities or organizations must have mandatory auditing of financial statements:

  • business entities or organizations following the International Financial Reporting Standards;
  • business entities or organizations issuing consolidated financial statements;
  • business entities or organizations under a reorganization or liquidation process or selling all their assets through auction;
  • any foreign invested business entities or organizations;
  • any kind of financial fund; and
  • any other business entities or organizations which may be required to have mandatory auditing of their financial statements under the law and international treaties which Mongolia is a party.

Most business entities or organizations are required to have their financial statements audited by the April 30 of the following financial year. As for banks, annual final financial statements are due within March 31 of the following financial year. As for joint stock company, financial statements are required at least 2 weeks prior to any shareholders’ meeting in which it is intended to discuss financial statements of the reporting period.

For evading performance of obligations specified in law having its financial statements audited, or failure to have audited within above mentioned period, an individual is fined by amount equal to MNT 100,000 and a legal entity is fined by amount equal with MNT 1,000,000, in addition to compensate the damages occurred in accordance with Law on Infringement in Mongolia.

2018 Brings Changes to Personal and Corporate Taxes in Mongolia.

With the beginning of 2018 several new tax regulations are coming into force. In 2017 the Parliament of Mongolia has passed number of amendments to laws. In this article we will highlight more relevant new tax regulations, which are coming into force from January 1st of 2018.

Increase of personal income (salary) tax and social insurance fee

On April 14th, 2017 the Parliament of Mongolia passed several amendments to Law on Personal Income Tax, Law on Social insurance and relevant accompanying laws. Pursuant to amendments to Law on Personal Income Tax, beginning from January 1st, 2018 personal income (salary) tax shall be incremental. Individuals shall pay starting from 10 percent and maximum up to 25 percent income tax depending on their annual income. Non-residents, who are employed in Mongolia, now shall pay 20 percent income tax regardless of their income. Before non-residents paid 10 percent income tax.

Pursuant to amendments to Law on Social Insurance, the rate for pension insurance fee shall gradually increase over the next 3 years. In 2018 employees and employers shall each pay 8 percent, in 2019 – 8.5 percent, from 2020 – 9.5 percent of pension insurance fee. Individuals, who are self-employed and/or pay pension insurance fee on voluntary basis, shall pay 11 percent of pension fee in 2018, in 2019 – 11.5 percent, from 2020 – 12.5 percent.

Tax on transfer of land possession and land use rights

Pursuant to amendments to Law on Personal Income Tax from November 10th, 2017, now any free of charge transfer of land possession and land use rights (whether if transfer is under gift contract, or transfer between family members) are taxable. Before only purchase-sale of land possession and land use rights were taxable. Under new regulation any transfer of land right (whether paid or free of charge) is subject to 10 percent tax.

Tax on transfer of land rights, exploration and mining licenses

On November 10th, 2017, the legislators passed an amendment to Law on Corporate Income Tax, pursuant to which transfer of land rights, exploration and mining licenses via transfer of owner company’s shares is now taxable. In other words, when a shareholder transfers his/her shares of company that holds land rights (land possession or land use rights), exploration or mining licenses to third party, such transfer is subject to 30 percent income tax. In compliance with amendments to Law on Corporate Income Tax, The Minister of Finances has published relevant methodologies, forms and required documents necessary to determine and calculate the taxable income amount from such transfers.

Issues in Mongolia Employment: Employment of Minors

Foreign companies operating in Mongolia are sometime surprised regarding local laws on employment of minors. In Mongolia, employment of minors, is legally acceptable under limited circumstances and with high protections required in favor of the young employees.

There are a number of legislations regulating the child employment In Mongolia. There is the Labour Law, as well as The Law on Protection of Child Rights, and the relevant international conventions. Mongolia was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) were also ratified by Mongolia.

In Mongolia, a person at the age of 16 is allowed to enter into an Employment Agreement.  In addition, a person of age 14-15 years of age may be hired under the consent of the parents or guardians for the purpose of acquiring vocational training or work experience.

However, minors are allowed to be hired only in approved sectors. The Minister in charge of labour issues recently renewed the list of positions at which minors not allow to be employed, namely alcohol, tobacco related, plastics industry, construction, hotel, nightclub, bar, casino gambling, entertainment venue and generally jobs with hazardous labour conditions.

Horse racing, a traditional Mongolian sport, often sees children as young as five riding horses in the races. The children train the horses at even younger ages. Such activities have come under criticism by international child protection organizations for being a hazardous activity for these children, but due to the traditional nature of the sport, it is not likely that it will be restricted.

The employer of a minor is obligated to protect the health of minor employees by providing a medical examination twice a year. Furthermore, it is prohibited to require the minor employees to carry or lift load exceeded the permitted amount, and to work overtime, on public holidays or weekends. Violations may result in fines to the employer in addition to a requirement to compensate the young employee for with.

Is your Mongolia Company Compliant? Are You Sure?

Our Mongolian lawyers often work with foreign companies to establish and close down Mongolian companies and Representative Offices in Mongolia. Almost every time, when closing down one of these Mongolian companies our lawyers encounter compliance issues and tax irregularities which must be dealt with carefully. Sometimes these are intentional, other’s they are caused by local employees who just didn’t know any better.

Just this week we have encountered a similar situation in connection with the Representative Office of an international company. The below is almost exactly the email one of our Mongolian lawyers sent to this client, explaining the situation in Mongolia. Names and identifying information have of course been removed.

“Yesterday afternoon we were summoned to the tax office. The tax inspectors showed us their preliminary calculations of the amount of taxable income of the Rep Office, from which pursuant to law, taxes must be withheld. The tax inspectors specifically pointed out that the Rep. Office employees and accountant had been negligent and failed in their responsibility to duly collect and maintain financial documentation, including failing to maintain appropriate ledgers, and financial reports.

For example, one employee withdrew a large sum of money from the Rep. Office’s USD account and didn’t deposit the money into the MNT account. We can assume that she may have taken this to the office as cash on hand, however because no official ledger was kept, there is no record of the office receiving that cash and it is impossible to prove that the money was so deposited.

Because of this lack of documentation, the tax inspectors must consider the value of that transaction as the withdrawing employee’s personal income. Now, since from the perspective of the tax office those funds were paid to the employee as personal income, the Rep. Office should have withheld the standard 10% income tax, which of course did not happen. Therefore, we must now make up for the value of that 10% with a payment in taxes.

There are other examples where the Rep. Office gave donations or sponsorships to certain local events or business partners. Normally of course these payments are subject to tax. However, again, the Rep. Office did not withhold relevant taxes. There are quite a lot of such transactions, and unfortunately, most are relatively large sums.

Yesterday, we met with the tax inspectors and reviewed all financial documentation again, seeking to find documentation for those transactions the tax office as identified as suspicious. We were able to find corroborating documentation for some transactions, but not all. All of those remaining have been identified by the tax office, added up, and the value is are required to be paid to the tax office before we will be allowed to finally liquidate the Rep. Office. Because of the relatively large amount of unpaid taxes, the Rep. Office is also subject to a fine, which must also be paid prior to liquidation.

Once the inspection is finished completely, the tax office will specify the exact amount of taxable income in the official inspection decision.”

To avoid this, we recommend your Mongolia company implements a corporate compliance system, which includes oversight of accounting issues by a local accounting firm. Our firm regularly works with approved Mongolian accountants, and is able to make recommendations and provide accounting support.

Cryptocurrency: A New Financial World Order?

Cryptocurrencies have become a global phenomenon. While most people still don’t understand the concepts of it, many companies, major banks, financial institutions, and governments are aware of the importance of cryptocurrencies and are developing regulations and business models to manage and channel the trend.

In several-part series of articles we will go through all basic aspects of cryptocurrency and the firm’s growing cryptocurrency practice. Today we will discuss basic concepts of cryptocurrencies.

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. Cryptography is process of converting legible information into an almost uncrackable code, to track purchases and transfers. Therefore, cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature. A defining feature of a cryptocurrency is that it is not issued by any central authority, such as a central bank or government. Cryptocurrencies use decentralized technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank. Transactions are recorded on a distributed public ledger called blockchain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders.

Units of cryptocurrency are created through a process called mining, which involves using computer power to solve complicated mathematical problems that periodically generate coins. After coins are mined, users can also buy the cryptocurrencies from brokers, then store and spend them using  online cryptographic wallets.

Cryptocurrencies make it easier to transfer funds between two parties in a transaction; these transfers are facilitated through the use of public and private “keys”, which are long strings of numbers and letters linked through the mathematical encryption algorithm that was used to create them, for security purposes. The public key (comparable to a bank account number) serves as the address which is published to the world and to which others may send cryptocurrencies. The private key (comparable to an ATM PIN) is meant to be a guarded secret, and only used to authorize cryptocurrency transmissions. These fund transfers are done with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by most banks and financial institutions for wire transfers.

As a new and largely unregulated financial asset, the cryptocurrency markets have been known to take off meaning a small investment can become a large sum overnight. But the same works the other way, with volatility sometimes resulting in steep losses of value.

Also because of the level of anonymity they offer, cryptocurrencies are often associated with illegal activity, such as money laundering, tax evasion and illegal activities on the dark web, however, crypocurrencies themselves are not illicit or criminal item. Those seeking to invest in or buy cryptocurrencies should be aware of the volatility of the market and the risks they take, and be careful about the implications when choosing to buy the currencies.

Still, many observers look at cryptocurrencies as hope that a currency can exist that preserves value, facilitates exchange, is more transportable than hard metals, and is outside the influence of central banks and governments.

Future posts in this series will examine the current state of crypocurrency regulation, legal trends in crypocurrency and practical aspects of engaging in cryptocurrency related business in Mongolia.